Microsoft’s Zune underwhelms

“Microsoft has released more details about Zune, its new family of devices and services which will include an iPod-like player. We now know that the first Zune player will have a 3-inch screen, a 30GB drive, built-in Wi-Fi, and an FM tuner, and will come in black, white, and…er, brown. (Brown?) And it’ll be here for Christmas,” Harry McCracken writes for PC World.

McCracken writes, “As with any new music player, the inevitable temptation is to begin by obsessively comparing its specs with the iPod. It’s got a bigger screen (3 inches versus 2.5), the FM tuner the iPod lacks (but which can be added as an external accessory), and wireless… Microsoft is pitching the Zune as a more community-oriented gadget than the iPod, and the Wi-Fi will let owners beam songs to other Zune owners, who will then be able to listen to them up to three times over three days before having to purchase them.”

McCracken writes, “Sounds pretty cool–if Zune gets enough critical mass that Zune owners end up with friends who have them too. (With millions of iPods out there, you gotta think that a similar sharing feature would be wildly popular if Apple were to offer it.) There will be a Zune music store with both subscription and purchase options, and the device will come preloaded with some music. It apparently won’t launch with full-blown video download capability, but will add it later.”

A few more questions McCracken has about the Zune:
How’s the industrial design? A tad chunky and heavy compared to the iPod.
How’s the user interface? There’s a round control pad that looks like it works like the iPod’s click wheel, but doesn’t.
Will the lack of TV and movie downloads coming out of the gate be perceived as an impediment? It’s a signficant selling point that the iPod has and Zune doesn’t yet.
What does this mean for PlaysForSure, etc.? Microsoft’s marketing pitch for PlaysForSure involved telling the world that the Apple model–a closed system involving a device and a dedicated music service–couldn’t match an open world of compatible devices and services. Having failed to knock off the iPod with Microsoftian openess, it’s trying again with Apple-esque closedness.
Can Zune get millions of people to buy into subscription services? So far, the music subscription model seems to be one that everyone likes…except for consumers.
Will Zune work? To me, this is in some ways the bottom line. I’ve tried a bunch of services and devicess that use various Microsoft music technologies, and their track record for simply working well enough that I can listen to music I’ve paid for is crummy. And I’m not the only one who’s struggled with them.

McCracken writes, “Like many a Microsoft product before it, Zune sounds attractive in theory. But as with many of those past Microsoft products, it’s not a given that Microsoft’s execution lives up to the concept.”

Full article here.

“After watching the iPod fuel a resurgence of Apple Computer Inc. that’s now in its fifth year, Microsoft Corp. belatedly jumped into the market for portable digital music and videos Thursday,” Rex Crum reports for MarketWatch. “The question now is, will its Zune effort be too little and too late for the proverbial 800-pound gorilla of the technology industry?”

“‘Microsoft is a threat simply because of the supply of money it has to put toward this,’ said Gene Munster, of Piper Jaffray,” Crum reports. “‘But, at the end of the day, Apple has the market, and Microsoft has a hard road to go down.'”

Crum reports, “‘Apple has shown what it means to have a great product that is easy to use,’ said Ted Schadler, vice president and analyst at Forrester Research. ‘And that must be frustrating for Microsoft.’ At first glance, the Zune resembles the iPod, and it’s also about the same size as Apple’s device. Microsoft said that the 30-gigabyte player will come in three colors (black, white and brown) and have a 3-inch screen, bigger than the iPod’s 2.5-inch viewing area. Microsoft is also touting its new Zune Marketplace store, as well as the Zune’s wireless capabilities for song-track sharing and a built-in FM radio tuner.”

Crum reports, “But none of that technical wizardry impresses Schadler. ‘Apple has an ecosystem in place, and Microsoft needs to build its marketplace, not just displace Apple’s,’ he said. ‘Technical features like that have never, ever been enough to displace a technology like Apple has in place.'”

Full article here.

Related articles:
Enderle: Microsoft Zune ‘a design mistake’ – September 15, 2006
BBC online poll asks ‘Will Microsoft’s Zune be a success?’ – September 15, 2006
Microsoft hypocrisy exposed with Zune: What ever happened to ‘choice?’ – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune with fake scroll wheel ‘hardly an Apple iPod killer’ – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune won’t spoil Apple’s biggest iPod Christmas ever – September 14, 2006
Microsoft unveils Zune 30GB player, Zune Marketplace; declines to disclose prices – September 14, 2006
Microsoft sees room in music player market for ‘Zune’ to challenge Apple’s dominant iPod – September 06, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft’s Zune an ‘underwhelming’ repackaged Toshiba Gigabeat; no threat to Apple iPod – August 30, 2006
Microsoft confirms brick-like Zune to be made by Toshiba – August 25, 2006
Microsoft Zune is chunky brick made by Toshiba – August 25, 2006
Microsoft to spend hundreds of millions, several years on Zune trying to catch Apple iPod+iTunes – July 27, 2006
Zune: Apple cannot lose. Microsoft cannot win. – July 26, 2006

28 Comments

  1. xbox sucked…

    but xbox 360 is super popular…

    don’t count microsoft out… they do improve… but as long as apple doesn’t alienate their customers, all is good.

    Me? I hope MS can give Apple a run for their money… the ipod is a cash cow… and I don’t like to be milked.

    I’d rather pay less for my ipod… unlike many Mac Zeolots who would eat crap from STeve’s toilet, if it was labelled iPoo.

  2. When does Creative plan to sue Microsoft for trademark violation? Nothing could be more confusing in the marketplace than the Creative Zen vs the Microsoft Zune. Will Creative wait until product is on the shelf and sue for damages? Or will Creative get a prior injunction to prevent the Microsoft-Toshiba device from being released with the Zune name?

  3. When does Creative plan to sue Microsoft for trademark violation? Nothing could be more confusing in the marketplace than the Creative Zen vs the Microsoft Zune.

    Creative’s bigger claim against MS is the patent on menus and searching that they just won (with Apple positioned to get a cut of any future settlements). That’ll raise their costs, and Apple just lowered iPod prices on Tuesday which will force MS to accept lower margins, putting the squeeze play on MS.

  4. The 2G Zune will also come in baby poo yellow.
    Maybe MS can find a loafer manufacturer for the Zune + shoe kit.
    There’s rumor of a car adapter for the Zune but for some reason it can only be installed in a 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis.
    The next Zune will also display Excel spreadsheets. MS ran an in-house survey and found out that’s what the kids really want.
    The Zune visualizer is PowerPoint based with hip designs using that cute and clever clip art (like the guy with the big butt bending over looking through a giant magnifying glass).

  5. Idiots that complain about “Mac Zeolots” obviously can’t think for themselves if they feel they “have” to buy an iPod and get “milked”. Perhaps they should check out Microsofts Zune Forum. It’s just a hive of activity!

  6. “Creative’s bigger claim against MS is the patent on menus and searching that they just won”

    I suspect that Apple didn’t actually give in to Creative as prhaps we thought. Perhaps Apple said to Creative, this patent is weak, if we fight it, we may not win but it will take you years and millions to win it. Or we may outright win it by having it thrown out or awarded to us for prior art.

    So let’s make an agreement that makes you look like you win and then we win by having one less competitor and then we can both stick it to MS when they release their player. On top of keeping millions out of the pockets of lawyers.

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